Church Security – Building a Strong Foundation

At Cool Solutions Group we strive to provide the best content to all that are searching for ways to be stewards of what they have been entrusted. In the past few years church safety and security has been a growing focus. We get many calls regarding this, and work with many great partners in the industry to get the best information out to as many as possible.

What we have found is that security is like any other process in a facility. To be successful it must be done intentionally. One of our favorite quotes that is generally attributed to the Greek soldier Archilochus circa 650 B.C. is “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training”.

That concept is the basis for our new free e-Book series entitled A Measured Approach to Church Security. This series has 4 separate eBooks:

Part 1: Church Security – Preparing for the Process

Part 2: Church Security – Laying a Firm Foundation

Part 3: Church Security – Building Upon the Foundation

Part 4: Church Security – Supported by a Firm Foundation

For a safety and security program in your church to be successful and effective, you will need to have a strong foundation. This series is designed to introduce you to the concepts that allow you to begin building the best program for your church. There are many references provided, some to articles and some to service providers. Take the time to dig deep and begin building and training on a safety and security program that can accomplish your objectives. Developing your response during the storm is the opposite of intentional planning.

Download this FREE series today, and encourage others to do the same. Develop the plan that is right for you and your church culture. We are here to help.


5 Ways Your Parking Lot Might be Holding Back the Redemptive Potential of Your Church

This week we are thrilled to share the wisdom of a great church leader and friend, Rich Birch of unSeminary.comRich has become a trusted friend the past few years and I really appreciate his insights. For example…believe it or not, your parking lot could be the thing that is holding back the potential of your church. In fact, your church might not be living up to its total calling because of what is happening at the parking lot. Rich is going to unpack this for us below.  Thanks Rich for all you do!

Your Parking Lot Might be Limiting the Redemptive Potential of Your Church!

Cars have a profound impact on the manner in which we “do” church across the country. As the adoption of the car took off in the first half of last century, our approach to churches changed and morphed accordingly. The local parish gave way to the regional church which ended up paving the way for the entire mega-church movement, which became a fertile ground for the multisite movement. We would do well to understand the impact of cars and connecting our parking lots to our ministry because they are so connected to what we do. Here are a few ways that parking lots might be negatively impacting your ministry.

A Full Parking Lot is Limiting Your Church

Obviously, most church leaders are inside their buildings when their services start. Your people might know that you have a problem and you’re never around to see it. Full parking lots are a great sign because that implies lots of people are attending your church. However, if they are “too full” like a packed auditorium, it can actually turn people off.

Most municipalities’ bylaws are inadequate to tackle the required parking spots per seat in the main auditorium. Lots of cities typically only require 1 spot for every 4 seats in your auditorium. (I know one city by us that only requires 1 for every 40!) My experience suggests that your church needs 1 spot for every 2 seats in your auditorium. Most legacy church buildings were not built with this much space and might get cramped every week.

If your parking lot is more than 70% full as your services are starting, it’s time to start looking for better parking solutions. You want your guests to be able to find a spot easily.

Four Tactics for Dealing with a Full Parking Lot:

  • Street Parking // Diving into your municipalities parking bylaws might reveal that your area allows street parking on Sunday. In many regions, the rules pertaining to weekend street parking are different during the week. It’s worthwhile investing the time to figure out if this type of opportunity exists on the streets around your building.
  • Cross Use Agreements // Look around your immediate neighbors and find someone who you could borrow spots from. Oftentimes, other businesses and organizations will be open to you using their empty parking spots. However it’s much better to approach them and talk about it rather than just starting to use it.
  • Park Your Leaders Off Site // Those who volunteer and lead at your church should be encouraged (or even required) to park off your location. Cast vision with them around the idea of creating more space for visitors and ask them to do the extra walk.
  • Shuttle Buses // Churches facing a more acute parking problem might need to resort to off-site parking that isn’t adjacent to their property and might need to offer remote parking supported by shuttle buses. This approach should ideally be the “last stop” before you look at building more parking spaces. It can be a great solution and provide good service for families connecting with your church.

Church Parking Lots without Volunteers Are Missed Opportunities

If your church doesn’t have people serving on a parking team, you must know that people within your church are missing out on a perfect service opportunity. Over the years, I’ve found that churches that have parking teams are actively engaging a group of volunteers that lots of other churches seem to be unable to connect with. I love the churches that have parking teams which espouse an almost superhero-like ethics as they serve outdoors all year long. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this team from the swift completion of their appointed service” … even the postal service can’t claim that anymore!

Your church grows when more people get plugged in and they spread the word among their friends. As you get this group of volunteers plugged into your church, they will start telling other people. Also, churches develop faster when they see more people getting plugged into the community. As you move a group of people from anonymity to community through serving on a team, the church is inevitably strengthened.

5 Tips for Launching a Parking Team

  • Start with the Who // The team leader is critically important for this team. (Any team, really!) Find an outgoing team builder who doesn’t mind asking people to join the team. Typically these are high energy folks because it takes a lot to push and stay outdoors all year long!
  • Launch in a Mild Season // Please don’t launch this team in July if your church is in Florida, or in January if you’re in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Launch the team in a “shoulder season” where your team can effectively do its task before the heat or cold sets in.
  • Consider the Uniform // Give your people something to wear that will help them stand out while serving. Think about the different kinds of weather when considering various parts of the uniform.
  • Training! Training! Training! // Make sure to think through exactly what kind of experience you want your guests to have upon their arrival. Talk it over with the team before they start. Draw it out on a diagram or two for the visual learners. Oftentimes, theme parks do a fantastic job of parking people. Maybe you could take your people to visit a theme park to watch and understand what they do.
  • Celebrate Lots! // This team needs lots of public celebration and admiration. These people are considered to be heroes of the church because of what they do for you. Talk lots about them from the stage and celebrate their service. You can’t overemphasize how amazing this group of people really is!

Your Church’s Parking Lot is a First Impression … all week long!

The first thing that most people typically see about your church is your parking lot. This is not only the case on weekends when your guests arrive, but also all week long as most people just drive by your parking lot.

I’ve seen some churches with a small forest growing between the cracks in the parking lot by communicating that it’s a very long time since anyone parked there. We’ve all seen a worn out parking lot that hasn’t been painted since the Spice Girls were on Top 10 radio and it all looks far too depressing.

Stand back and look at your parking lot. If it were the only thing that people knew about your church, what would it communicate? For most of us, it is the only thing people know about and identify with our churches because they simply drive by and don’t come in. Ensure your parking lot communicates that your church is welcoming and open for one and all!

On a related note … have you ever stopped to consider what your parking lot communicates if it’s empty throughout the week? All of our buildings have their heaviest usage during the weekends, but does that mean they’re completely empty during the week? Does an empty parking lot throughout weekdays implicitly communicate that your church isn’t relevant to the lives of rest of the people? Just wondering.

Is Your Parking Lot Holding Back Single Parents?

Today, 1 in 4 kids are raised by a single parent. [ref] If your church isn’t seeing at least that number of single-parent-headed families in your church, the onus may lie on the parking lot. Traveling with young kids can be particularly challenging as a single parent. By the time a single parent has arrived at your church, they have already braved a lot to make that happen. The last daunting task is getting out of the car and across your parking lot into your facility.

5 Ways Your Church Can Be More Single-Parent-Friendly in Your Parking Lots

  • Designate “Parent Parking” Spots // You don’t need to make these “single parent parking spots” because people do appreciate some level of anonymity. Having spots that are closest to the front and have easy access to your children’s ministry is a gift to all parents!
  • Train Leaders to Look for Single Parents // The simple act of helping a parent with a stroller in your facility can be a sign of selfless love and care. Having team members walk with single parents and help their kids get into your ministry can make all the difference.
  • Have “Fun Transport” Options // Wagons are a simple yet effective tool that some kids love to jump into and get driven into church in style. A next level option would be to have golf carts or even a tram! (I love the tram at Disney World!)
  • Umbrellas Are A Must // Train your people to look out for parents on rainy days to meet them with an umbrella at the car. There is nothing more thoughtful than when someone steps up beside your car with an open umbrella on a rainy day to help you get your kids out!
  • Great (Obvious) Signage // If you have two or three kids in tow, you are focused on keeping them safe coming across your parking lot. It can be difficult to discern where to go. You can’t make your signage too obvious to people. Make it better, simpler and brighter so that a frazzled parent doesn’t need to exhaust their brainpower to figure it out!

Parking Lots Are a “Hidden In Plain Sight” Stewardship Issue.

Finally, parking lots are expensive. It’s not uncommon for parking lots to cost at least $5,500 per spot on a fairly low complexity build. [ref] As a point of reference, let’s say your church has 500 seats in the auditorium with only 100 parking spots. You’d ideally like to add another 150 spots to match the 1 spot for every two seats we quoted above. After factoring in all the design, drainage, curbing, painting, etc., it would be an investment of $825,000 for your church – assuming that you don’t run into any significant problems along the way!

Once parking lots are built, they become a recurring maintenance issue that often gets differed longer than it should; ultimately costing the church more than it needs to. If your church doesn’t keep up with resurfacing and patching on a periodic basis, you can be forced into a situation where major renovations need to be done at a massive cost. No one wants to invest massively in maintaining a parking lot when there are so many other pressing ministry needs, but ignoring its significance may have severe consequences down the road. You should be looking at regular maintenance of your parking lots on a bi-annual or at least annual basis!

We often take this resource for granted and hence, it’s easy to not invest in. Typically, the cost of a parking lot gets hidden as part of a major capital expansion. This is why we don’t consider what an important resource it is to the church. Challenge that mindset because it really is an amazing tool for our ministry!


Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 15 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner.  He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church – a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is know for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact.

Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution. He has a weekly blog and podcast that helps with stuff you wish they taught in seminary at www.unseminary.com

Church, The Way It Used to Be…Really?

Recently I was driving on I-85 between Charlotte and Atlanta and saw a billboard for a church that said:

ABC* Church and School…the way it used to be (* I will not reveal the name of the church…but if you Google “Church, the way it used to be” you may be shocked at how many churches use this slogan).

I saw this and just thought…HUH? Really? Are you serious?????

“I believe that the cultural and social changes that we have been blessed with have allowed us to better grow disciples that love God and love people.”

I know what they are trying to say…but REALLY? Do you really want things the way they used to be? Do you really want church and school to be the way it “used to be”…really?  Let’s think about how church and school used to be:

  1. Schools “used to” meet in a one room facility.
  2. Schools “used to” not have computers.
  3. Schools “used to” use corporal punishment in excess.
  4. Churches “used to” require that you wear a coat and tie (that is the piece of cloth that men sometimes wear around their neck…just in case you are less than 25 years old).
  5. Churches “used to” use a Latin version of the Bible.
  6. Churches “used to” require their minister to wear a robe to preach in.
  7. Churches “used to” do all of their music with a pipe organ only, if any instruments.
  8. Churches “used to” print bulletins on a mimeograph machine.
  9. Churches and schools “used to” not have air conditioning or heat.
  10. Churches and schools “used to” require men and women sit on opposite sides.

OK…enough of my rant…but I for one do not want to do “church or school” the way it used to be done in the past. I believe that the cultural and social changes that we have been blessed with have allowed us to better grow disciples that love God and love people…and allow us to impact a culture that is far from God. While the message of the Gospel can never be compromised…and the truths of the Bible never forsaken…our means, methods and approaches must stay relevant and contextual to the society we are trying to serve…you know…in the world, not of it.

Let me share one more example.  I have heard for many years the argument of traditional vs. contemporary music in church. This is an argument that does not ring true to me (no pun intended). What is contemporary? According to the dictionary, it means: of the present time; modern. Simply put, it is what is happening right now.  And yet, so many churches have tried to make “contemporary” an ugly word.  Let’s take an honest look at church music. Fanny Crosby is credited with writing dozens…maybe hundreds of hymns that were made popular in the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s.  This era of church history was called the Sunday School Era as that is when Sunday School was first started. Now we talk about how we need to have music the way it “used to be”…which generally means we need more hymns. But the reality is, the hymns of that day were the contemporary music of the day and were considered trite and trivial compared to the great works of Bach, Beethoven, and other great composers of the Middle Ages. Sounds pretty familiar to today.

Now…I am not saying that the music of the Middle Ages is not relevant or that hymns have no meaning or place in our current culture…but I am asking if we really want our churches and schools to be “the way it used to be”.

Think about it.


Security In The Church – FREE Webinar

Church security, safety, readiness and the like are front of mind issues for all of us. 20 years ago, many of the perils we are having to be prepared for were unthinkable.

In light of that, we invite you to join us Thursday, March 22nd as we discuss Security in the Church. This webinar is provided by Church Facility Management Solutions. Normally these webinars are only available to our membership, but this topic is SOOO critical that we are opening it up to the first 100 people.

This FREE webinar is designed for churches of all sizes and will provide timely information for churches wanting to start or strengthen their respective programs. Our special guest is Mr. Chuck Chadwick Jr.

Chuck Chadwick Jr. is the Founder and President of NOCSSM™ (National Organization for Church Security and Safety Management™); NOCSSM™ has helped churches of all sizes in multiple states with security and safety issues.

Chuck is also the licensed security manager and president of Gatekeepers Security Services. GSS’s Gatekeepers Program™ has trained hundreds of armed Gatekeepers in churches across Texas. As president of the Christian Security Institute™, he trains church security teams in both regulated and non-regulated states.

His three decades of private security experience, and over a decade in the Church security field working with large multi-site church campuses in Texas, enable him to address the unique security issues faced by churches of all sizes.

Chuck’s credentials include Certified Protection Specialist through Executive Security International, a TCLEOSE Certified Law Enforcement Firearms instructor, a Certified PPCT Defensive Tactics Instructor and a Licensed Level 3 & 4 Security Instructor through the Texas Department of Public Safety Private Security Bureau.

Please join us March 22nd @ 1:00 PM Eastern for this opportunity to strengthen the security in our churches. Click HERE to sign up, and send any specific questions you would like to see addressed to training@coolsolutionsgroup.com.


Have To vs. Get To

Three Little Words

Months ago while taking a yoga class, my instructor gave us a little challenge. She suggested we change the “ I have to” language in our lives into “I get to.” This little mind shift really impacted my perspective on many fronts and transformed my attitude; especially with all the mundane tasks I do on a regular basis. For example, as I turned the thought of I have to do the dishes into I get to do the dishes, I was immediately grateful that we had food and a sink where I could wash the dishes. When I thought of getting to do the laundry instead of having to do the laundry, I was reminded of the blessing to have clothes to wash and machines that work. I could go on and on, but I know you already grasp what I am saying! I even used this mind shift with my kids as they complained of homework. I explained that they get to do homework which meant they are able to attend school which would be a luxury for many kids in this world.

Regardless of where you are in life, there is always room for more gratitude and these three simple words have helped me change perspective and feel a greater sense of gratitude for all the things in life I get to do! I hope these three little words help you as well!

Lisa Cool
lisa@coolsolutionsgroup.com


7 Tips for Addressing High Traffic Restrooms

If you attend a church with multiple services (whether that is multiple worship services or worship with educational), you probably have limited time between your services. One of our Project Management/Owner’s Rep clients in Charlotte has 3, back-to-back-to-back, worship services with only 15 minutes between each service…which is a challenge for the parking lot ministry as well as the cafe and lobby. But what about the restrooms? Yep…they are high traffic during that 15 minute period. We do not give our facility restrooms the needed attention until we realize they are inadequate to meet the “bio-break” needs of the congregation, we get complaints and/or you are on the facility team and have to care for these high-traffic areas.

I was recently reading an article in “Building Operating Management” magazine by David Lewellen on high-traffic restrooms. Not really my normal reading material, not even bathroom reading…but it was interesting.

“We do not give our facility restrooms the needed attention until we realize they are inadequate to meet the “bio-break” needs of the congregation.”

Mr. Lewellan provided 7 tips for design and ongoing maintenance of these spaces. Most of his examples were focused on non-church related facilities, but the principles still apply. In fact, his references to venues such as arenas, stadiums and the like are very much in keeping with church facilities. Our church facilities are actually far more similar in use and heavy traffic to a sports stadium, concert venue or performing arts center than they are to an office park or retail center. Lots on people come on the premises and exit in droves. There is a huge demand for parking, ingress, egress…and restrooms…at very definitive and concentrated times. More on that another day.

Back to the restrooms…here are the 7 tips that the article outlined:

  1. Remember the Larger Context – Besides your lobby and worship center, the restroom is likely to be one of the spaces in your facility that a first-time guest will visit…so they may very well form an impression of your church from their visit to your restroom. Vincent Maiello, designer of the Philadelphia airport restrooms (another VERY high traffic area…I know) gave this quote, “It doesn’t necessarily cost more to do them nicely. Red tile doesn’t cost more than white tile.” It does require you to be intentional!
  2. Keep Your Eyes Open to Visual Factors  “Where are your restrooms?” is not a great conversation starter with a guest to your church…so signage and wayfinding are critical. We have talked about this before, so I will not belabor the point. But this is important stuff to our guests. In addition, think about these visual factors: a) Most people use the toilet, sink and dryer…in that order, and the traffic pattern should reflect that flow; b) Stall doors should stand at a slight angle when open, so that people can see at a glance which ones are available
  3. Know Your Users – This may sounds basic, but we generally fail to consider who is using our facilities. For example, if your church is comprised of a lot of families with small children, you may want more than one baby changing station and you may need space for strollers. Make sure you don’t just assume that “one restroom fits all”.
  4. Choose the Right Materials  What is the right wall material in a restroom? I can tell you this, painted drywall in your wet areas is not great. At the same time, concrete block, while durable in a locker room, may not convey the story you wish to your guests. Smaller tiles can be more slip resistant due to more grout lines…or if larger times are desire, get a slip-resistant texture. What’s the word? Oh yeah…intentional!
  5. Make Sustainability a Priority  We are all moving to a more “green” built environment. Low-flow toilets and faucets are becoming the norm. Power hand dryers are the default of choice in many high-traffic restrooms in order to reduce paper towel usage. Occupancy sensors are another great way to save energy.
  6. Take a Close Look at Technology  Touch-free system benefits to high traffic areas for more reasons than just going “green.” In many public spaces, people do not flush to avoid touching the handles or they would use their foot, which could damage the valves.  According to one of the experts in the article, most facilities are choosing battery-operated and just adding the replacement of the batteries to a regular checklist.
  7. Make Maintenance Top of Mind –Talk to your facility team! Get them involved. Think about options such as wall-mounted toilets or ceiling hung partitions to make the floors easier to clean. How do you keep up with the supplies during your service times? Some people will use the larger rolls of toilet paper to reduce the frequency of changing while others offer cabinets or some other stall storage of supplies.

BONUS – This was not in the article…but remember, potty parity is a serious issue. According to research done in the United Kingdom, women spend an average of 1 year, 7 months, and 15 days longer in the bathroom than men. Just saying. Be cognizant of the ratio of men and women’s facilities.

I realize that people do not come to your church for the primary purpose of using your restroom facilities…but they will use them, and it will make an impression.


9 Diseases of the Church Facility

The below are 9 “diseases” that many church facilities suffer from. Gary Nicholson, church architect, developed this list and thought you would enjoy playing doctor to diagnose if your facilities suffer from any of these ailments.

Enjoy (and thanks Gary, good stuff)!

Diseases of the Church Facility

Just as our bodies contract diseases that can lead to problems and cause pain and discomfort, many diseases can infect church facilities so that the church can experience functional problems and great discomfort. Rarely are these merely cosmetic, but are often outward signs of much more deep seeded problems. Examples include:

  1. Growing Pains– Consistently filling of a space or spaces in the church to beyond eighty percent, often a positive sign of growing numbers in a church. If not addressed, can become a limitation and lead to stunted growth. The remedy is not always to build new space, but to examine the possibilities of a.) Redistributing the people into underutilized areas, b.) Utilizing the space in an additional session at a different hour or time slot, or c.) Considering adding space that allows for future growth.
  2. Bumpus Maximus– When too many people are in your church foyer or lobby. This occurs primarily between services and Bible study sessions. Made worse when the preacher doesn’t stop preaching on time and people are waiting in the foyer to get into the next service when the previous service is not yet over, so that people are exiting the worship center at the same time others are trying to enter (Can be made even worse when the entire congregation ate nothing but beans the night before at the annual world hunger banquet).
  3. Circulatory Disease– When hallways and corridors are clogged or jammed full of people so that movement becomes difficult. Worst in cases where multiple services are occurring so that there is traffic both coming and going in the halls at the same time. Easily rectified by a good church squabble to thin the flock and reduce the numbers, leaving only the few who will not leave regardless of the dysfunction in the fellowship.
  4. Architectural Senility– A rather sad state whereby antiquated facilities relate to the past much more than the present. Can take on many forms. One often cited example is extremely small rooms designed for adult Bible study groups of 6-8 people instead of today’s larger groups, or built for activities that never materialize, like a recreation facility that no one uses. Another example is a very small platform with room for piano and organ and no other instruments because that was the way church was done in the 1950’s.
  5. Flashback Syndrome– The visual state of a room that induces instant flashbacks in a person who enters, usually to the 1970’s or some other era, by the nature of the color scheme and patterns, such as shag carpet with harvest gold, or avocado green color schemes. Symptoms may also include floral wall paper, or garish plaids and mauve color schemes from the eighties, etc.  Communicates that the members are out of touch with the present, or simply do not think church is important enough to bother updating the environment.
  6. Architectural Vertigo– When a church facility has been designed with no sense of balance such as between the spaces allotted for areas such as building a huge worship center without regard for the space to balance it with children’s program space, or building without adequate parking. The result is often the communication of an unintended message such as: Bible study is not important, or even that we don’t care about kids.
  7. Scatter brain” Syndrome (scatterus incognito)– A common ailment where the various age groups and programs are not arranged in any logical order and finding the appropriate room becomes extremely difficult for new or infrequent attendees.
  8. Religious Edifice Confusionitis– When a congregation builds using architectural styles or trappings from a different religion while declaring it to be “the way a church ought to look.” Greek and Roman temple forms used in nineteenth and twentieth century church buildings are often confused as “Christian”, when actually they were created as tributes to ancient gods like Aphrodite and Zeus. Makes people wonder if you know why the church even exists.
  9. Pave-it-all Landscapeosis– A disease often seen in churches that have taken the desire for a low-maintenance landscape plan to the ultimate level. Everything (except the cemetery) is paved. Asphalt has replaced the grass all the way up the building with no room for landscaping because, well, that’s the point: They don’t want to have to maintain a landscape. It has an unattractive appearance, but at least it they don’t have to do anything to take care of it.

Infected with one or more? The cure can be a lot of hard work, but so worth the effort to be free of such maladies and able to function as a church should. I recommend diagnosis by an expert in church facility diseases. Give us a call! Your facility, staff and congregation will thank you!


Does the 80% Rule Still Apply?

I have been working with churches since the mid 1980’s (I know…I am old!!!). During that era, most of the churches I served bought pews for their worship space. That was the norm. The rule of thumb of 80% occupancy meant being full was very applicable. In a pew configuration, the code considers a “seat” to be every 18″ in width. LOL…not with most deacons I know! A better measurement would be 21″-22″. So we have some space that the fire marshal says are seats that really aren’t. But the other major factor with pews is the “spread out” space…you know, the place to lay my Bible, or a ladies purse or coat. Most people using pews take up far more than their fair share of butt space, so the 80% rule was serious business and a key indicator for most churches.

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, more and more churches moved to flexible seating…usually in the form of a stackable chair. These proved to be a great way to utilize a facility by having the flexibility to add or remove seating or to totally take it down for other functions. Most of these seats were in the 20″-22″ range and even could interlock to give the illusion of a pew. Two primary benefits for a church was the sheer cost (typically lower than a pew) and the designated seat per butt. It allowed for a quantifiable 1:1 ratio of people to chairs. This should have made the 80% rule obsolete, but there was still the mindset that we needed the “spread out” space and so many people still consumed 2+ chairs to accommodate their personal property and desire for personal space. In addition, there was still a paradigm of allowing people to enter the worship space and sit where ever they liked. This meant that you would have spotty areas of seating with 1 chair here or two there or the entire front row empty. These two realities made the 80% rule still viable and necessary for worship space planning.

However…I think we are seeing a real trend that is impacting change of the 80% rule. There are two primary contributors to this shift:

  1. Theater Style Seats– This has been a growing trend over the past 7-10 years and I believe it will only continue. Theater seats allow you to have the 1:1 people to seat ratio, but most have an integral arm rest between seats so it is easier to obtain your personal space. In addition, the fold-down seat requires enough weight and force for it to fold that it is not as convenient for someone to try and use it to lay their Bible…as it will just fall to the ground, unless you have one of those large white leather coffee table Bibles.

There are several other benefits that theater seats offer such as:

  • Allowing more seats in a similar space as chairs.in some cases 10-15% more seats. That give you more bang for your buck.
  • Parking requirements will be “right-sized” compared to the calculations required for flexible seating.
  • Same applies to your total restroom counts.
  • With the total number of occupants identified by the number of seats and not a square footage calculation, your HVAC system can also re right-sized…which can reduce costs both initially as well as related to life cycle.
  1. Crowd Control– Do you just let people sit wherever they like?  Does your worship space fill up from the back to the front and from the aisles to the middle? I have seen a very helpful trend being used by growing churches…what I will call “crowd control” or seat assigning or for those of you looking for a politically correct term –  concierge seating. There are several attributes to this methodology that I see can help with your worship seating:
  • Segment off the worship space from front to back. I have seen many churches using pipe-and-drape or just ropes to barricade the back section of the worship space until the front fills up and then then will open up the back section in increments to keep the room “full”  from front to back.  This helps to ensure that the rooms fills before more seats are made available and also provides less distraction when late-comers arrive as they can sit in the available seats in the rear.
  • Ushers direct traffic in the worship space. While this may sound controlling, what if your ushers helped people fill in every row from front to back and from aisle to aisle? Instead of letting people camp out on the end cap of a row, ask them to move all the way to the opposite end and then back-fill the row until it is 100% full. No saving seats. No spaces empty. While this may not feel natural, if you are space deprived…or feel like you are and yet still have more seats than people, this will help you maximize the occupancy.

It is my opinion that if you utilize the above two methods to manage your worship seating, you can exceed to the 80% rule to 85-90%…maybe more. You may ask why this is important me (and to you). Here is why…it goes back to stewardship…financial and facility stewardship.  If we can maximize the space God has already entrusted to us before we venture into a another building initiative, we are being better stewards of our current spaces as well as the money entrusted to us. I like the sound of that.


Utility bills, HVAC maintenance, and HVAC replacement are significant costs for most churches. HVAC usage can be attributed to 50-75% of your utility bills and HVAC maintenance and replace are your second or third largest capital expenditure not to mention the cost of staff to constantly change settings for events. If you are looking for a means by which to increase operational efficiency and control costs, then this resource is a MUST read.

 

Build Your Church Before You Build Your Building

A number of years ago I did a blog series based on a book with some pretty simple and insightful ideas. That series was based, with permission, on the book Simply Strategic Stufby Tony Morgan and Tim Stevens. I strongly recommend that you pick up the book as there are 99 great insights.

As I look back on 2017, the truths that Tim and Tony wrote about have become acute to me as I have served and met with dozens of church leaders. Our team has worked with a number of churches that could not articulate their vision, mission or focus. When asked to communicate about their vision, they were quick to tell us about the WHAT they do (programs)…but when challenged to drill down further, they could not explain WHY they did those things and heard crickets when asked to define WHO they were as a church.

To me, that is tragic…and sad.

I used to do a workshop for the NC Southern Baptist entitled “Why Build When you can Grow“. That workshop was intended to challenge the traditional thinking that you needed an owned facility to grow your church. Frankly, that is as far from the truth as you can imagine. With that said…if you have explored all of your options and facilities are still the right choice, then by all means pursue that…but do it the right way.

OK…enough soap-box preaching…let’s re-visit what Tim and Tony have to say:

SIMPLY STRATEGIC STUFF #38 – Build Your Church Before You Build Your Building

Those of us who have rented space for church services have heard people say, “Tell me when you are in your own building, and I might visit then.”

But the church building isn’t the church. The church is a living organism. It is the people. It is those who have given their lives to Christ and have gathered locally to make a difference in their communities. There are churches all over the world that have no building or facilities and yet are living, thriving local churches!

Addressing the ministry vision, mission, focus and values is the first step in lasting and intentional facility stewardship.

Putting up a building before the church is ready could cause troubles down the road. Do the following before you consider breaking ground:

  • Define your mission, vision and values
  • Build broad ownership of those defined values through your entire core of believers
  • Make sure that your leadership team is strong and growing
  • Develop a culture of volunteerism
  • Develop an infrastructure of leaders and systems that can handle the demands of a facility
  • Take the spiritual temperature of your church, and make sure that the people are continuing to take spiritual steps.

Make sure that having a facility will serve the purposes of God in your community. Make sure that it will facilitate reaching more and more people for Christ. Remember, the church is a living organism made up of the people Christ died for.  A building is only beneficial if the people are thriving.

Great insights! I would add that the above truths are not only for churches that are currently in temporary space or rented facilities…but for any church that is considering an expansion or building program of any kind. Addressing the ministry vision, mission, focus and values is the first step in lasting and intentional facility stewardship.

The above steps and tenets are universal. They can be your guide to an intentional impact; or if left unaddressed, can lead to a status of a country club or wandering in the wilderness.  In the words of the Grail Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade“You must choose. But choose wisely.”


Check out our book, Why Church Buildings Matter. Church facilities will not save a person from a life of sin and frustration. But the lack of attention to the church campus can indeed be the road block to reaching those people that need to hear the gospel message the most. Don’t minimize their impact. This book will reveal how to maximize your church facility to share the greatest story ever told, the gospel.

Lowering the Drawbridge

In Medieval society, a drawbridge was used by the people of a castle, facility or walled city to prevent outsiders from getting in. The design purpose of the drawbridge was primarily for military defense, so enemies could not even get to the gates. It basically told passer-bys – STAY OUT – . It allowed people to stay huddled in their fortresses and keep the rest of the world out. They would build a moat or place the castle on a ridge surrounded by a precipice so that it could be completely secured and impenetrable…until you lowered the drawbridge or some other means of transversing the divide could be conceived and constructed.

When the drawbridge was lowered, the edifice and its occupants were unprotected. They were vulnerable to attack as well as allowing access to those in the villages, region, community, etc. But if things ever got tenuous or uncomfortable and  “messy”, the occupants could quickly raise the drawbridge and close off access once again.

In modern society, we do not see many drawbridges at peoples homes, businesses, commercial complexes or churches. However, metaphorically, we still  have  erected them in many aspects of our lives. We have contrived theoretical drawbridges and moats around many components of our existence. We try to keep ourselves “safe” from outside influences and by doing so, shut out the harmful as well as good that could impact our lives.

Figure out how, in your context and community, to lower the drawbridge and invite the community onto your campus.

In relationship to our churches, many of us have done the exact same thing. We have built environments that feel cold and isolationist to the community or worse…blatantly tell people to STAY OUT.  “Church Parking Only”. “Members Only”. “No Trespassing”.

In other instances we have designed out campuses in such a way that all you can see is the front door and no sign of people doing life together. Or we develop exterior environments that are tucked away from plain sight of the watching community…trying to get a glimpse of what is behind the scary walls of the ominous church steeple and four white columns.

These are all kin to digging a moat and raising the proverbial drawbridge. Uninviting. Closed. Isolationist.

What might be a better approach, would be to figure out how, in your context and community, to lower the drawbridge and invite the community onto your campus. What things could you do physically, visually, pragmatically, relationally, outreach, etc. that would lower the drawbridge and invite people to do life with you.

Let’s abolish the drawbridge!


Check out our book, Why Church Buildings Matter. Church facilities will not save a person from a life of sin and frustration. But the lack of attention to the church campus can indeed be the road block to reaching those people that need to hear the gospel message the most. Don’t minimize their impact. This book will reveal how to maximize your church facility to share the greatest story ever told, the gospel.